Day 4: Horses for courses: cultural support structures for the 21st century


We need to reorganise our systems and structures for cultural support so that we can

·       support success across the whole creative sector  (where it is needed and strategically focussed)

·        maximise the influence, contribution of arts and creative sectors in other spheres, economic, social, educational, local and international

·       benefit from the skills and cultural infrastructure we have

·       benefit from changes in communication through digital media

·       be fast enough now that the pace of everything has changed

We need to re-engineer our systems and structures for the 21st century and move towards a model based on networks and not layers.  We need to reduce machinery, the costs of it and move towards lighter, more transparent, fleeter, more flexible structure and systems.  We need to collaborate on providing a network of support.

Every country, nation, region and locale has its own priorities, strengths and infrastructure and  structures and systems we design and operate need to be fit for purpose in each case.

But there is a simple approach, a  menu of what we need to fit these times that starts with both  artists and government policy.

That would include (and this is not a hierarchical list – needs a drawing of spheres and connections here)

Clear government policies, primarily cultural policy but also economic and social, supported by government interventions including fiscal policy

Intermediate strategic agency (ies) working across all spheres

A Funding system – we need a funding system not necessarily a funding body

Infrastructure – arts and venues, other players


So what should that intermediate strategic agency look like?

Yesterday I wrote about the generic arts council Model, the way in which that functions is different in England, Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland as each of these countries has its own particular economic, political, social and cultural priorities.  There are other cultural strategic agencies in the mix here, including film, craft and design councils and also other public agencies in enterprise, education, international affairs and local government.

In Scotland, where we have been considering this since devolution, we have a particular set of circumstances including being a small country with big national cultural ambitions  and  having strong capacity, capability in local authorities and arts organisations.   The priority for the Scottish Government  “To focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth”.  The intermediarycultural public sector agencies should support Scotland’s success in the creative economy.

The approach here is to create a single intermediate strategic agency –Creative Scotland.

Ewan Brown, Chair of Creative Scotland 2009, writes in today’s Herald:

·       It will support, develop and promote a much wider range of creativity than the SAC and Scottish Screen have been able to. From advertising, through music, publishing, fashion and architecture to digital media, Creative Scotland will create more opportunities for more individuals, businesses and groups than ever before

·       as a single agency, it will be more efficient, more powerful and more influential

·       it has the remit to push the creative industries to the forefront of Scotland’s economic development

The Scottish solution to the international conundrum has the potential to be a powerful new model but not one that can be applied everywhere.

  1. Robin MacPherson said:

    this is an interesting and improtant thread but I think we are in danger of losing sight of a fundamentally important truth about public intervention in arts and culture. Namely that it is only necessary because the market (or more accurately markets, and I include social markets such as education and social services agencies that might ’employ/engag’ artists here)is incapable of accurately identifying and rewarding ‘creative potntial’ before it becomes ‘creative success’. In other words arts policy interventions are inherently about addressing a market failure. The deeper reason for this is what cultural economists term the problem of “extreme uncertainty” in evaluating the potential of cultural products/producers. Spreading the ‘risk taking’ that is inherent to any form of investment (public or private) across multiple players/agencies does nothing to increase the probability of the ‘right decision’ being taken, rather it abdicates responsibility for exercising creative judgments
    to a form of )social) ‘market widsom’.

  2. DrJoel said:

    Where should taxpayers’ contributions go? Surely not to fund “private goods”, from which taxpayers can be excluded by entry fees or otherwise. White elephants will always assert their own “needs”. Let them find private investors or increase entry fees instead of picking the taxpayer’s pocket.

    “Public goods” are the only justifiable recipients of tax money. Nobody is excluded from state education or the NHS. That’s why they are legitimate recipients of our taxes.

    In the arts, it is difficult to find a better formulation than that of Keynes:

    “To develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts”.

    This is the first Object of Arts Council England’s Royal Charter. It encompasses Arts Education and Innovation. These are Public Goods, like schooling or the NHS.

    If instead we continue to allow taxpayers’ money to be diverted to “private goods”, and white elephants, no structures and systems will suffice to rescue us from our folly.

  3. My fellow on Facebook shared this link and I’m not dissapointed that I came here.
    p.s. Year One is already on the Internet and you can watch it for free.

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